MURPHY, N.C. – Cherokee County Board of Commissioners met Wednesday, May 30, for a budget work session to review and discuss the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018-19.
The budget, as recommended by County Manager Randy Wiggins, calls for a total of $44,212,558 with $38,083,967 designated for the general fund and $6,128,591 in special revenue funds.
On Wednesday, commissioners suggested further allotments to Wiggins to be added into the proposed budget. Commissioner Gary Westmoreland suggested adding $20,000 to purchase property across from the county senior center for a public-use dumpster site. This opened a discussion concerning the misuse of existing sites across the county.
Commissioner C.B. McKinnon suggested installing cameras at the Peachtree site and the Whitener Bend site in an effort to help enforce regulations at the sites and also to provide more 24-hour sites for county residents to use.
“I dare say nine of 10 times I’ve passed there (Peachtree site), there’s somebody there placing items … that’s not supposed to be there,” McKinnon said.
To this, Wiggins cautioned that opening more 24-hour sites across the county with no attendees and only security cameras to monitor activity could also encourage residents of surrounding counties to use the sites, which are supposed to be available only to Cherokee County residents. Wiggins specifically noted the Peachtree and Hiwassee Dam sites as two sites that are being misused heavily by residents from Clay County, North Carolina, and Polk County, Tennessee.
Referring to the Peachtree site, McKinnon asked, “How much garbage from Clay County is hitting the dumpsters that makes it worth inconveniencing the rest of the whole community in Cherokee County?”
Commissioner Cal Stiles stated that while he felt security cameras could help, monitoring of the footage would also be necessary to eliminate misuse at the sites. “Unless we have someone who has the time or we hire someone to actually view all this stuff to see … We really don’t know what’s going on there at two, three, four o’clock (in the morning),” Stiles said.
“I’ve never seen a group of people that fault a success so much,” McKinnon responded, referring to the existing 24-hour sites. “Usually when you have a success, you want to duplicate that success. I’ve never seen such a pushback from a success. ‘Oh, that was a success. Let’s not do another one.’ That is about a frustrating a thing that’s ever been.”
Wiggins clarified to McKinnon he was only sharing the complaints he had received concerning the sites. McKinnon suggested increasing the number of fines issued and also rotating attendants at sites.
“These are common sense things,” McKinnon added.
Additionally, Westmoreland suggested adding $80,000 to the budget for a new playground at Konahetta Park. Because the park is within the city limits of Murphy, McKinnon recommended meeting with the mayor and/or members of the city council about funding half of the cost for this.
“It’s time for the town of Murphy to step up in recreation and take the heat from the public like we take the heat from the public,” McKinnon stated.
Later, it was agreed that commissioners McKinnon and Westmoreland would meet at a future date with Mayor Rick Ramsey, of Murphy, about the town possibly funding half of a new playground at Konahetta Park.
The board also discussed the possibility of repairing the tennis and pickleball courts during the next fiscal year. According to Wiggins, the last time the courts had been resurfaced was over 20 years ago. He also stated several of the courts had received patching in August 2016, which cost the county approximately $27,000, and that the county has already received a quote in the amount of $114,825 to completely resurface the courts.
To this, McKinnon and Commissioner Roy Dickey agreed the town of Murphy should also assist with the financing of this potential project.
After Commissioner Stiles asked whether the needed repairs were a result of cosmetic issues or potential safety hazards, Wiggins stated further deterioration of the courts could pose safety hazards in the near future.
The board also discussed the budget line item for Tri-State Community College and addressed concerns over Cherokee County paying more than its fair share to the college than the counties of Clay and Graham.
The commissioners discussed the possibility of “holding the line” by not giving the college any additional funding than what the county has given in prior years.
“There’s got to be a point where you do hold your line and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,'” McKinnon stated and then asked rhetorically, “Are you going to step up and do a tax increase? Are you okay with the other counties not paying their share and going ahead and increasing the tax on your citizens because the other counties aren’t paying their share?”
After further discussion, the board agreed to review the Tri-County line item again at its next budget workshop to be held June 21 at 6:30 p.m. In addition to this meeting, the county budget is expected to be adopted at the June 28 regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners.